February 25, 2004

Boston's new convention center will finally get a headquarters hotel. Yesterday, James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, announced that Toronto's Scotia Capital bank will provide a $120 million construction loan for the 790-room Westin, which could open by summer 2006. After years spent searching for funding, the hotel's developers were hurtling toward a March 1st financing deadline when they received the good news. The area's drastically elevated guest room-count will finally allow the convention center to draw the crowds it is designed for, including a Microsoft convention now considering Boston for its June 2006 event. While Pat Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, would not disclose any final agreement with Microsoft, he did claim to be "optimistic that we'll be given the official go-ahead by the end of this month." With an expected attendance rate of 20,000 over 10 days, this would constitute one of the largest events the facility has booked yet.

Details of an extensive audit of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau's books were released last week, with findings that the bureau had violated its contracts with the city by failing to keep separate accounts for the public money it receives. The CVB has agreed to comply with all the recommendations suggested by the auditor. These include maintaining separate bank accounts and financial records for public and private funds, and requiring all travel and expenses claimed by employees to be accompanied by itemized receipts. The CVB gets about three-quarters of its funding from the city's hotel tax, and the rest, considered private funds, comes from dues paid by bureau members and other sources. Former CVB president Eugene Dilbeck was fired in November following controversy concerning the bureau's accounting practices.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has launched the Starwood Spa Collection, highlighting 30 facilities at Starwood properties that the hotel company considers its best. Over the past 18 months, the facilities have been brought up to a unified standard of service, and though they offer different product lines and treatments, they are being marketed together in a catalog and at www.starwood.com/spacollection. Eight more spas are under development and will enter the collection by next year. One of those is the spa at the Westin Maui Ka'anapali Beach, which opens April 3. It will serve as a new spa prototype for the Westin brand.

Fashion icon Giorgio Armani is entering the hotel market. Armani and Dubai-based real estate/construction company EMAAR Properties are building a worldwide collection of luxury Armani hotels. Ten hotels and resorts will be opened by 2010 in prime locations, including Dubai (United Arab Emirates), London, Milan (Italy), New York, Paris, Shanghai (China) and Tokyo. The first project to be developed will be the 250-suite Dubai Armani Hotel. In addition, a management company, Armani Luxury Hotels and Resorts, will be created and headquartered in Milan.

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is bringing its luxury line to Mexico. The company announced it will manage a 128-villa resort currently being developed by Desarollos Marinos del Caribe on the Riviera Maya coastline. Embedded in 36 acres of jungle, the riverside resort and 20,000-square-foot spa will open in fall 2005.

Conrad Hotels, the luxury brand of Hilton International, will move into the Las Vegas market with the 2006 opening of the 378-suite Conrad Las Vegas. The hotel will be part of the new Majestic Resort & Residences Las Vegas, an entertainment, shopping and dining complex one block from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Groundbreaking on the property, which will have two ballrooms and 13 meeting rooms, will be late this year, coinciding with the groundbreaking on the entertainment complex.